Showing a person going pale is one of the telltale signs of having a character admit guilt or display the feeling of shock in a story. The literary devise is time tested though it hasn’t been as frequently used in films and TV given how difficult it is to pull off going pale at will. But most of us have seen at least one person go pale at one time or another in our lives. We examine the key reasons behind why people go pale.
Blood flows to other parts during an emotional episode
During an intense emotional episode like just having received some shocking news or having been found out for an indiscretion, the respiratory system of a person goes into overdrive. To support the increased function of the muscles, lungs, heart, visceral region and parts of the brain, the body pulls blood away from the non-essential regions of the body like the face. This shows up as going pale to the beholder.
Conservation of heat
When the body is faced with a bout of illness or a sudden feeling of shock, the body needs to provide heat to organs that need it the most. The superficial organ i.e., the skin does not require so much heat at these moments so the body constricts the blood vessels in the skin to decrease the heat exchange with the air surrounding the body thereby conserving heat.
Low blood pressure
Some people experience a lowering of their blood pressure dramatically and this may show up as going pale in them. In such a condition, the blood pressure of the person is lowered all through the body. This leaves little blood and heat available to the skin which may appear paler than unusual during such an episode of low blood pressure.